In the 1970s, when the first video games entered the market, no one imagined that video games would move to computers, and become incredibly pervasive. From movies to cosplay to the scores to the dedicated creatives that bring dreams and nightmares to the brink of reality, it’s obvious that the industry has captured the hearts and minds of billions of people.

As video game creation technology progressed over the years, so did their availability and possibilities. With the addition of RPGs to the digital gaming sphere, less fastidious gamers could experience worlds beyond their wildest dreams. Unfortunately, the dark side of these brilliant graphics and engaging stories is a growing group of people whose desire to escape turned into a compulsion. Video game addiction is as real as the consoles on which they’re played and affects people all over the world. Up to an estimated ten percent of gamers are addicted to the electric pastime, and they are overwhelmingly male. Only about six percent of addicted gamers are women or girls. This certainly won’t surprise most: despite enormous changes to the demographics of the average gamer just fifteen years ago, video games have always been associated with boys.

What is Video Game Addiction?

video gamesAny addiction could be defined as a compulsion to seek out and utilize a set of stimuli. Sound, graphics, and a story in another world are enough to suck some into habits that are difficult to escape. Some of the symptoms of gaming addiction include, but are not limited to, feeling bad when not playing games, constantly thinking of playing video games, a decline in academic or work performance, and lying to friends and relatives about the amount of time spent playing. It’s also common for addicted gamers to experience mood changes and physical changes, and irritability between stretches of gameplay. Like most other addictions, losing interest in other hobbies is a symptom of gaming addiction, as well as physical and behavioral changes.

Video gaming addiction has been classified by the World Health Organization as a gaming disorder. The phrase might make you think of rolling the dice or pulling the lever in Las Vegas, but gaming disorders go beyond the blackjack table. In designating gaming addiction as a psychological disorder, this could be the best way to stay ahead of the phenomena, and prevent it from affecting millions more, including children and teens. While some are critical and skeptical of the classification from the World Health Organization, the symptoms of addiction are real, tangible, and can destroy the lives of well-meaning but vulnerable players. People with family histories of addiction should absolutely have hobbies, but managing time spent on a hobby whose purpose is to suck you in is particularly important.

For most people living with an addiction to video addiction, it began as a hobby that got out of control. For others, an escape from the real world became a necessity for dealing with everyday life. Whatever the original intent, it is possible for video gameplay to take over your life, and of course, there are those who are more vulnerable to this addiction than others.

Who is Addicted to Video Games? 

Like any addiction, anyone can become addicted to gaming. Contemporary video games are specifically designed to get you hooked on the game and keep you there. This is done in part by the enormous and highly detailed universes created by the designers and story writers. Of all gamer groups, young white men, particularly those in their mid-20s, are the most likely to become addicted to video games. Though there are huge communities of gamers across the spectrums of race and ethnicity, young white men are followed by young Asian men in the United States’ community of addicted gamers. Up to an estimated ninety-five percent of people living with an addiction to video games are men, with the tiny remaining five percent being women, who are also majority-white.

Children also make up a percentage of people living with addiction to video games. Approximately nine percent of children who play video games regularly are or will become addicted to them. Children’s addiction to anything, including video games, must be treated under the care of a pediatrician. Treatment programs are available, but make sure that, if you need to treat your child for addiction to video games, that the pediatrician is in close contact throughout the process.

When Did People First Become Addicted to Video Games?

The earliest known study on video game addiction was conducted in the United States in 1999. The study found that not only was video game addiction a real phenomenon (there had been, and still is, criticism surrounding the theory), but that children, too, were at risk of developing an addiction to their video games. The study’s timing was interesting: the turn of the century was the birth of widespread broadband internet access for much of the world. The rise of high-speed internet impacted the gaming world into a global, multi-billion-dollar industry, with much of it propelled by the ability to play video games any time with people from around the world. The sudden spread of high-speed internet was instrumental in the rise of smartphones, a now essential tool in the video game race. Smartphones today offer the kind of access that allows for more people from countries outside of the United States to play with those on American soil. With steady streaming access and fellow players all over the world, gaming addiction seems like something that was not only always feasible, but probable.

Think You May be Addicted to Video Games? Help is available. 

If you’ve been swept away into a perfect world where downloadable content and in-app purchases can make you a king, you’re far from alone. Millions all over the world live with this addiction, and China opened a clinic to treat the disorder in 2008. Video game addiction and substance abuse may seem very different, with most agreeing that video games are considerably less harmful than hard street drugs. But this is exactly why so little research has been conducted and little research is done on the matter: everyone in the scientific community doesn’t take it seriously, as a psychological disorder. If you or someone you love can’t stop playing video games or lives with another type of addiction, consider an intervention through your local and reputable rehab facility.

Content for Scottsdale Recovery Center and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media

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